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Focusing Oriented Psychotherapy

What kind of therapy is it?

Focusing is both a gentle and powerful mind-body, self-awareness technique, using heightened attention and awareness to body sensations to enable deeper understanding of oneself. The approach assumes that our body contains wisdom that, when accessed, offers a route to healing and growth beyond our familiar cycles of thought. When we attempt to solve our problems with what we already know, think, and feel, then we may find that we are just going around in circles and not really making progress towards a solution. However, by learning to listen to a new bodily felt sense of awareness something new can emerge and meaningful change can occur.

What problems can it help with?

All problems can benefit from using this approach. While Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy is a distinct and effective form of psychotherapy in and of itself, it can be integrated into any therapeutic modality, and be helpful for many common difficulties such as depression and anxiety.

What will a typical session be like?

In Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy the therapist asks questions and listens in a way which helps the client to find his or her own intricate bodily sensed experience. With the therapist's intent to actually understand, without judgment and evaluation, the client's attention can develop to a level of awareness called the ‘felt sense’.

We are all familiar with emotions, but a felt sense is not an emotion. It is a new human capacity. The felt sense of a situation or problem, when it first forms, is typically vague and unclear. You can sense that something is there, but it is hard to get it into words exactly. The felt sense is holistic in nature and contains within it much more than we can easily think or emotionally know about our situation. As the therapist and client spend time with the felt-sense, new and clearer meanings emerge.

Through the development of their felt sense, clients are able to recognise the exact word, image, memory, understanding, new idea, or action that is needed to solve their problem. The physical body, in response, will experience some easing or release of tension as it registers the "rightness" of what comes from the felt sense. This easing of tension is what informs the client and therapist that they have made contact with this deeper level of awareness and that they are on the right path.

What is the evidence?

FOT comes from the pioneering work of philosopher and psychologist Eugene Gendlin at the University of Chicago, where he collaborated with Carl Rogers. Dr. Gendlin's work has been honored by three awards from The American Psychological Association. He and colleagues studied why some psychotherapy clients improved while many others did not. It was found that successful therapy was not determined by the therapist's technique, orientation or the kind of problem being discussed. What did make a difference was what the client was doing internally. Successful clients were regularly checking inside themselves for a whole bodily felt sense of their situation. These findings led to much further research over the last fifty years and to exact understandings about how this inner focussing can be beneficial.

Further reading
The International Focusing Institute 


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